IPMS Gent modelbouwclub

A big Beetle

Erwin Bovyn

KitVW type 87 DAK
ManufacturerItaleri
Scale1/35
TypeInjection moulded
PaintHumbrol, Vallejo, MIG products
Accessoriesscratch
Evergreen products
CMK VW engine
Eduard PE set
References“Volkswagen Military Vehicles of the Third Reich” by Blaine Taylor
Military Miniatures, “Modeler’s Special Edition Guide to the Kübelwagen”
“Afrika Korps” by Bruce Quarrie, Airfix Magazine Guide 12
“Afrika Korps”, Squadron Signal Publications

History

I already spoke about the evolution of the development of different types of VW models since the beginning of WW2 in earlier descriptions. Its a fact that one of those Käfers was designed bearing in mind its use in the North African desert. Italeri didn’t miss that one and the fact that the DAK still speaks to the imagination led to the development of a model of that type of Beetle.

This model of the so-called type 87 is based on the development of a type 82; a Käfer body married to a 4x4 chassis designed for the Kübelwagen. This series of the Kübelwagen has never been realised; the VW type 82 was only build in a very limited production. However, the real Käfer typ 87 did exist but this version can’t be build straight from the box despite the fact that it looks like that.

Using the book “Military Miniatures, Modeler’s Special Edition, Guide to the Kübelwagen” as reference, one can find descriptions of conversions for Kübelwagens, and Käfers and the perfect description on how to build the Typ 87 is given here. My build, with the use of the Eduard PE set, is based on this article with exception of the fitting of the replacement CMK engine. I bought this one 2nd hand on E-bay for 5 € and couldn’t let this opportunity go by.

The Kit

The Beetle kit used was in fact saved from the bin. The former owner was deceased and had left behind a collection of more than 400 build vehicles that would have been thrown away if they wouldn’t have been saved. He had “shaked” it together and decorated it with a coat of hand painted Tamiya yellow. I also recuperated the construction plans and found out it was the Italeri kit. The model received a bath of oven cleaner, was dismantled and cleaned up. The Krönprinz balloon tyres could be replaced by the recuperated off road tyres.

The use of these Krönprinz tyres necessitated the widening of the wheel arches. Main chassis and the body were left like the original but a metal plate was inserted between the main body and the fenders. Rather easy on a real car but on the kit it was necessary to cut away the fenders and the footboards on both sides. Having finished this operation, I decided to have a look at the fitting of the replacement engine and disaster stroke !! The set is intended for use on the CMK kit and doesn’t fit the Italeri model. This necessitated the cutting away of the inner sides of both rear fenders, engine compartment and rear bulkhead between passenger room and engine bay. This gap showed me that it was needed to fix part of the resin engine compartment before starting on the fenders. After all, it is necessary to keep the kit’s strength.

The engine

The resin engine is a kit on itself. The cleaned-up parts are dry fitted several times without using glue and the result of this is checked with the picture provided as box-art. The construction plan is not that accurate and most of the problems occur at the connection of the engine with the PE parts. Their exact location is best found by careful study of the box-art picture. A minor point for CMK. Once all parts in place, I added some fine copper wire as spark plug wires an also added some clamps. The engine is painted in sand colour and black with an aluminium drybrushing. A light black wash in the engine compartment will be added before gluing the body to the chassis. The complete unit can be adjusted once the engine is fixed in place. Another PE part is added on the bottom side of the engine compartment forming part of the chassis. The exhaust is left aside till the end.

The fenders

Once the engine inserted it is time to spend some effort re-adjusting the fenders, this time in their widened appearance. A 4mm wide strip made from plasticard and metal from a tea light candle is inserted between main body and the fenders. Everything is fixed with epoxy glue followed by a coat of Revell putty and white putty. A coat of Vallejo putty is added after the primary sanding. A coat of white primer brings forward the last defaults and once everything is sanded smooth we can go on with the building.

Suspension

I hate doing a job that can be regarded as complete useless when finished because another job didn’t work out fine. If the construction of the engine would have turned out wrong, it would always have been possible to build a model with closed engine compartment. If constructing the widened fenders would have turned out wrong, it would have been possible to return to the original kit model. But if the suspension would turn out wrong, I should spend no more time in building the kit. Widened fenders also means widening and strengthening the axles and a bit of ingeniousity will be needed here. I first opted for the use of Evergreen rod but both axles need to be widened on both sides and they also need to carry the extra weight from the widened fenders and putty so I turned to using a hollow copper tube of 3mm diameter. Once sawn to size the parts are inserted between the chassis and the part where the wheel rims need to be fixed on. These wheel rims made a problem on their own because they were glued to the Krönprinz tyres. A couple of nights in the freezer gave no result so I had to find another solution.

The problem with the widened suspension is not only the fact that both axles need lengthening but the Beetle didn’t have only one rear axle. An axle runs from the transmission to the wheel, so far so good, but this part was also connected to a second axle connected with the chassis. Sounds complicated but this leaves us with 2 axles on both sides that need to be lengthened and it is necessary to do this because we need the wheels to be located in the wheel arches.

Critics and technicians will undoubtedly say I’m wrong, say that lengthening one axle would have been enough and they are probably right but I’m convinced that lengthening only one axle would have led to weakening the suspension. Don’t forget that I widened the fenders and that they have been threatened with several layers of putty that adds extra weight to the model. And, after all, the bottom of the car will not be seen but it has to look good. Hollow copper tubes of 2,5 and 3mm diameter were cut to size. The 3mm tubes slipped over the remains of the broken axles of the model and secured with epoxy glue. I know it’s too thick but it’s strong.

The front axles only needed to be lengthened with the aid of the copper tubes.

The interior

This looks like a piece of cake compared to the work already done. The rear bench is made up by a bench part and a separate seat. The kit’s seat is used again but its frame is replaced by PE part including the butterfly nut which secures it to the floor plate. 2 PE ventilation grids are also provided. The seat needs some attention at the hinges at the back of the chair.

Once done, the transmission tunnel can be put back in place as well as the gearsticks and a couple of cables. The handbrake must be replaced to the right side of the tunnel. The kit’s pedals are replaced by their PE counterparts. The dashboard also received PE attention: the old logo and instrument panel are sanded flat and replaced by PE parts and a transparent speedometer. The direction column is mounted again followed by a PE map plank on the passenger side. This map plank is make from no less than 9 PE parts and needs to be aligned very carefully.

Next comes the machine gun supports in the lower part of the passenger side. The Schmeisser machine gun comes from the spares box, cleaned-up and repainted. A PE first aid kit and 2 rifle racks are mounted to the wall behind the driver’s seat.

Painting and finishing

Interior colours used are a black pre-shading followed by Tamiya Dark Yellow. The wooden floor gets wood Humbrol H110 followed by a German Camo Black Brown wash. Seats are cleaned-up and painted leather. Hinges and supports are painted black as base colour followed by Dark Yellow.

Once the interior finished and masked we can continue with spray painting a black pre-shading followed by a first layer of sand colour, lightly applied, in search of eventual defaults. Windows are left behind until the final faze because they all need replacement as they all are too thick and damaged. They will be replaced by clear plastic recuperated from a package. All last details like bumpers front and aft, door handles, PE licence plates, wind deflector on the roof and the folded back canvas roof, are added. The engine cover receives its PE supports and is fixed to the car. The new exhaust is also mounted

Damaged paint is camouflaged by a new coat of Tamiya sand followed by a coat of Klir (Future). The green / red brown camouflage colours are sprayed the next day taking care that they will not rule over the sand colour. All this is sealed by a second coat of Klir. A very diluted coat of sand is sprayed on to tone down the camo colours. This gives a sun worn appearance that adds to realism. A third coat of Klir followed by a German Camo Redbrown wash will bring back details of body parts. Some scratches, rust and signs of wear add more realism

The figurines

The kit provides 4 figures, an officer smoking a cigarette, an NCO with binoculars, an armed soldier and a soldier rolling aside an oil drum. The armed soldier will not be used. All of them wear Afrikakorps dress with boots. As I did mount an engine in the VW it would have been a pity not to show this and so the idea grew to convert the soldier with the oil drum to a driver checking the engine. NCO and officer, of whom one holds his hand on his back whilst smoking a cigarette, are overlooking the country side.

These are of course not figures of the highest standard and on checking them out it was revealed that the officer had a squared face that needed to be adjusted. The driver needed putty, was also cleaned-up and adjusted although he only will be finished once the vehicle will be on its wheels on its base, with opened engine bay so to measure and adjust the position of his hands. The NCO only needs cleaning up. They are all painted Humbrol 1 grey primer before using Vallejo / Model Color paint.

The diorama

I’m opting for a vehicle in a rather sandy surrounding without wanting to represent the desert. It is often suggested that type 87’s would have served in Italy and Russia but I haven’t seen any pictures proving this. But Sicily is not far from Africa and German troops over there did wear part of the Afrikakorps equipment and so I opted for a scene that could have been “somewhere in Sicily”.

The idea is simple: the car is halted to allow the officer and NCO to overlook the terrain. They take profit of smoking a cigarette whilst the driver wants to inspect the engine. They both stand with their backs to the Beetle whilst the driver opens the hood.

Uniforms

All three figures come straight out of some box and they are dressed in a wide variety of Afrikakorps uniforms. Colour of these uniforms could vary from sand to green and this can be found in many descriptions and publications.

The driver’s figure results from the Italeri kit and is in fact a soldier handling an oil barrel. His arms are adjusted in height and size to give the impression he’s opening the Beetle’s hood. He is dressed in the Afrikakorps tunic of shirt and short trousers, wears the Feldmütze and the lighter lace boots consisting of a brown shoe and a tan coloured soft leather laced leg part.

The binocular equipped NCO wears the same boots, shorts, a tunic vest and a cap.

The officer with his hand on his back wears the same type of boots but with green uniform and standard officer’s cap that never did change in colour.

General uniform colour varied much of the type of clothing and it’s original colouring and this could vary from orange yellow to light green. Even Feldgrau has been worn at the beginning of the Africa campaign. Colour faded according to the times the clothes have been washed and even decolouring from the sun made some items even look white. For this reason I opted not to paint my figures in the same main colour but opted to let them wear uniform pieces in different shades. We are later in the war and they use whatever is available.

Uniforms of the Deutsches Afrika Korps

The DAK clothing consisted of the standard Wehrmacht tropical uniform but most of the units that had been send to the African soil still were equipped with Feldgrau uniform including the black leather boots. Clothing discipline was not very strict but in general the issued uniforms were worn. Main exception on this was the use of more colourful scarf’s, sweaters and socks. Let’s not forget that desert nights are very cold and that the cloths not only served as a protection against sun or cold but also against sand, dust and dehydration. That’s why we often see pictures of DAK personnel wearing the long overcoat at day or at night.

Four types of headgear were in use. Officers mostly wore the Feldgrau officers cap and there was also the lightweight tropical helmet made from some kind of cardboard. It was designed as a protection for neck and face against the fierce sun, adorned with a shield with eagle on one side and a shield in black/white/red colours on the other side. This helmet had a chinstrap that was often worn above the helmet cap.

The standard Stahlhelm painted sand was also worn. The Feldmütze (boat type) and Bergmütze (with cap) were much more popular amongst the troops. Parts of them could be worn over the ears giving extra protection and warmth. The coloured band on all of these (except the Stahlhelm) could differ according the arm to which the soldier belonged. In general this was white (infantry), red (artillery and generals), pink (tanks), yellow (reconnaissance), blue (medical) or black (engineers). Sunglasses and goggles often were carried hanging from the neck or slipped over the cap.

Different types of vests were worn. First of all we find the long overcoat in Feldgrau or Feldgrün; green or grey. This coat has never been painted sand. It was worn especially at night as a protection against the cold and by day as protection against sun or sand. The vest or Felfblüse had the same shape as the European ons but was lighter of fabric and colour. The first DAK troops used the European Feldgrau uniforms. Rang markings are worn on the same places as on other tunics. Only some kind of bracelet was sawn on the lower side of the leave with the marking “Afrika Korps”. The shirt was also of lighter fabric and sand colour. The collar was worn open but scarfs were often used as a protection against the sand Officers wore a black belt on the vest.

Trousers could differ as well. First comes the typical grey or green trouser of heavier material, slowly exchanged for one of lighter fabric and colour. Next comes the short trousers running till above the knee. It always came in lighter fabric and sand, never in Felgrau. Officers still wore the typical riding breeches closing on the boots. One can also find pictures of DAK personnel wearing the British short trousers or wearing uniform parts of other nationalities like England or Italy.

Black leather boots as used in Europe soon became unfriendly to the feet as they didn’t allow them to dry out and so they soon have been replaced by a brown leather shoe with according laced leg caps. That shoe was also worn separately without the caps. Other uniform parts like belts and straps, bags, backpacks, etc…. were only differed in colour by changing them from black to brown or some kind of web outfit. The gasmask was never worn in the desert.

Keep ‘m building

Erwin


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